Earlier this month, high school students from the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula (BGCP) visited Fogarty Innovation for an afternoon of interactive presentations with Fogarty Innovation team members and entrepreneurs. Together, they highlighted opportunities within the medtech and healthcare fields and shared their personal journeys to expose the students to possible career opportunities in the space.
Fogarty’s partnership with BGCP is driven by a desire to nurture the next generation’s interest in STEM and other key functions in medtech by sharing a firsthand look at health technologies and entrepreneurship. This goal aligns with BGCP’s mission to empower youth with equitable access to social, academic and career opportunities that help them thrive.
“These visits are very helpful to our students and offer early exposure to career opportunities meant to inspire them to continue pursuing further education,” said BGCP’s director of Career Pathways Programs, Jaclyn Babcock. “Fogarty Innovation has been an important partner for us, as they motivate our students to embrace their curiosity and find new ways to address problems in an exciting field they might not otherwise know about.”
Introducing students to interesting career paths
Students began their visit by learning about Fogarty Innovation’s mission to advance human health and the many types of organizations with which it interacts, including its Lefteroff summer internship program, in which several BGCP college students have participated.
The discussion was followed by a tour of El Camino Health’s Mountain View hospital led by Zach Edmonds, MD, strategic advisor for Fogarty Innovation and division chair of Hospital Medicine for the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Medical Group. Zach shared his background and guided the group through the different hospital practices and the many services that El Camino Health offers as a leading community hospital.
The students also had the opportunity to meet employees and learn more about two Fogarty Companies-in-Residence (CIRs) that are focused on improving diagnostics: Enspectra Health and Chronus Health. The entrepreneurs shared the impetus for their startups, the impact they hope to make on patient care, and the ups and downs they experience as they proceed from concept to market. They also explained the different career paths available within an early-stage company and gave the students a hands-on experience with the device design, build, and test process, which appeared to fascinate the youngsters.
“When I was in high school, I wasn’t exposed to the inner workings of companies, so during the talk I wanted to give the kids an insight into the different engineering fields that make up Chronus Health, along with a high-level overview of how blood testing is done today and how important it is,” said Mitchell Bond, an electrical engineer at Chronus Health. “I hoped to spark their interest in STEM by showcasing the multidisciplinary approach Chronus Health is taking to solve a problem and push the boundaries on technology that enables decentralized blood testing to help clinicians make decisions faster and improve patient care.”
Students ended their day with two inspirational personal journey talks. Enspectra CEO Gabriel Sanchez traced his path from growing up on a cattle ranch in rural New Mexico, to obtaining advanced degrees from MIT and Stanford, to starting his own company. “It is vital that we inspire the next generation of innovators to carry us into the future,” said Gabriel. “It is equally essential that this future is accessible to all individuals with the desire to create meaningful impact. Based on the engagement of the BGCP youth I met today, I’m excited about where we’re headed.”
Engineer-in-residence Jesus Magana then shared the remarkable story of his upbringing in rural Mexico, from the early days where his family of eight lacked some of the most basic necessities like electricity and running water, to his journey working in medical technology. He started from the ground up at Heartport, a company that helped pioneer minimally invasive cardiac surgery, and now helps startups design devices that improve and save lives. “I had many mentors along the way who nurtured my passion and provided me opportunities to continue learning,” said Jesus. “I know the same will be true for you because there are so many generous, dedicated people working in the life sciences. Time and again I have seen amazing opportunities come to those who work hard and stay focused and ready to seize opportunities.”
“It was a thoroughly gratifying day as we watched these kids make connections between their current interests and potential opportunities in the healthcare field,” said Fogarty Innovation’s chief commercial strategy officer Marga Ortigas-Wedekind. “We are proud to partner with groups like BGCP that are committed to nurturing a love of learning in our communities’ youth.”